Arsenal bemoan VAR inconsistency after ‘clear penalty’ denied in City defeat


Arsenal were left nursing a sense of injustice after VAR decisions contributed to their dramatic 2-1 defeat against Manchester City, with their assistant manager, Albert Stuivenberg, suggesting they had been denied a “clear penalty” when Martin Ødegaard was challenged by Ederson in the first half.

Stuivenberg was overseeing Arsenal in the absence of Mikel Arteta, who looked on from home after testing positive for Covid-19. He and his players felt the referee, Stuart Attwell, should have been asked to review Ederson’s tackle on the monitor, just as he did when awarding City the second-half spot kick from which Riyad Mahrez equalised.

“I think it is a clear penalty, but at least a moment for the referee to check, like what happened with their penalty,” Stuivenberg said. “It is inconsistent.”

Aaron Ramsdale, the Arsenal goalkeeper, was similarly confused after seeing City’s penalty appeal at close quarters. Attwell originally awarded nothing when Bernardo Silva went down under Granit Xhaka’s challenge but when invited to review the decision by the VAR official, Jarred Gillett, he changed his mind.

“I don’t know why the referee is told to see one and not the other,” Ramsdale said. “It is there for a reason, go and use it. It is the inconsistency. The whole point is to help the game out. In real time it didn’t look like one, [but] slow it down on a screen and it is given.”

Despite their frustration at not being awarded a penalty, Arsenal surged ahead later in the first half through Bukayo Saka and were by far the better side before Mahrez levelled. The equaliser was followed quickly by a second yellow card for Gabriel Magalhães, whose first was for what Stuivenberg termed a “normal comment … no dirty language was used”, and Arsenal paid the price through Rodri’s late winner.

“I’m sad that we don’t end up with three points, that’s the most frustrating part,” Stuivenberg said.

Ramsdale agreed: “I don’t think for large parts of the game teams have done that to Manchester City.”

An 11th straight win for City gives them an 11-point advantage at the top, although Chelsea and Liverpool have opportunities to reduce it with games in hand. There have been two bigger gaps on New Year’s Day in the Premier League era.

Pep Guardiola accepted City had been fortunate. “Arsenal were better,” he said, before pointing out that City had two days to recover from their win at Brentford.

“It was so tough for us to come back. We had no energy. We were incredibly tired and they were better, but football has happened and sometimes it comes in our side.”